INTERNATIONAL

Airbnb Cancels Great Wall Sleepover Contest After Backlash

Airbnb
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Shanghai: US-based home rental website Airbnb has called off a contest offering its users a chance to spend a night on the iconic Great Wall of China, official Chinese media reported on Wednesday.

The accommodation site asked people to write a 500-word essay on overcoming cultural boundaries in a bid to win a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. But the plan sparked mixed response and concerns that it could contribute to the historic structure being damaged, the BBC reported. According to state-owned China Daily, the company decided not to go ahead with the plan out of respect for public opinion.

Airbnb claimed that the event, called “Night at the Great Wall”, had permission from authorities. But the cultural commission in Beijing’s Yanqing district — in charge of the famous Badaling stretch of the wall where the stay was to take place — said it was not aware of the event and no approval had been given. The company launched the contest on its website on August 2, offering eight selected travelers the opportunity to stay on the Great Wall, a Unesco World Heritage site considered one of the biggest feats of ancient architecture.
The organizers had planned to convert a watchtower of the 2600-year-old monument situated close to Beijing in the Badaling section into a double room with a bed, decor, candles and a bathroom, although without electricity and other related amenities. There are no laws banning people from spending the night on the wall and some tourist companies also offer packages for camping on it, but this was the first offer of its kind, according to Airbnb.

Laws for protection and conservation of the monument, which stretches for thousands of kilometers, date back to 2006 and strictly ban installations not meant for conservation. Although the US-based company said it would not put so much as a new nail into the monument during the event, the campaign generated a strong public backlash, leading to the cancellation of the contest. (IANS)